Photography for Hockey Fans, Part 2: Framing and Composition

Remember all those rules about framing and composing your shot in the camera, rather than in the darkroom that they teach you in Photography 101?

Throw them out the window. The rest of the article is below the jump; I'll add photos in later to illustrate.

You don't have time for that when you're shooting a sport as fast-moving as hockey. Players move at speeds up to 30 MPH and more; the puck itself can be moving at speeds upwards of 100 MPH. I defy anyone to be thinking about the "rule of thirds" - or any other composition rule - while shooting at that rate.

Later, with any good digital camera, you can crop to suit your tastes.

So: Sal's Rules of Thumb for Hockey Photography are:

1) Frame loosely. Give yourself enough room to crop to a similar size in the digital darkroom without cutting your subject's head or feet off, if you're going for a full body shot. Assume that in 75% of your keepers, cropping may be necessary.

• If you're like me, you may end up with too much space at the top of a portrait-style shot, if you focus the center of the frame on the player's face. Don't worry about it; that's what Photoshop is for!

2) Take multiple frames of the "same" shot. This has the effect of A) providing you several chances to get the "right" image, and B) letting you screw up one or two shots. Don't worry: you will screw up. Everyone does. You're shooting high speed photographs of a high speed event. Something or other will be wrong with 80-90% of what you shoot, whether you are the best hockey photographer in the world, or not. You're shooting digital; screwing up is not a bad thing, and it teaches you what not to do.

3) Let yourself err. You don't have to shoot perfect shots with every frame any more; this isn't film, and you can discard any shots that are blurred, mis-aimed, etc. on the spot if you take the time to do it - if you even need to. If you're carrying enough memory, you won't need to.

Later, in the digital darkroom, when you prepare your shots, you can make corrections for framing, tonal relationships, and the like. Any photo taken with a sufficiently-advanced digital camera should be croppable to roughly 50%-75% of its original size and still be printable at a reasonable size (8x10, 11x14, etc.). You may not be able to get a poster-sized print out of it once you crop it down, but A) who has that much wall space?!, and B) if you're using the photo on the web, instead of on your wall, you won't use a full-sized image anyway!

What makes a hockey photo interesting?

1) Cropping:

• A full-body action shot should not be cropped at the subject's ankles.

• If you're taking a full-body action shot, include the full body.

• You can elect to crop at the thighs, at or above the waist, or pretty much anyplace else, but don't cut half a skate off, or half a foot. If you did that, you missed. It's like cutting the top of the subject's head off. It's more an "oops" than something deliberate.

2) Selective motion blur:

• In an action shot, some motion blur (the blur caused by the subject moving faster than the camera can stop the motion) is acceptable, and can make the photo more exciting.

• If the stick is blurred, or the hand, that's generally OK.

• Blur caused by camera shake, where the entire subject is blurred, is not acceptable.

• You can do some neat effects using motion blur on purpose, but it's tricky to do without a tripod.

3) Background:

• The background should not detract from the image.

• As with any photo, you don't want a "tree limb" (or someone's hockey stick, hand, arm, leg...) "growing" out of the subject's head.

• If the subject is a single player, and another player's skate, "haunches," or any other unidentifiable body part is sticking into the frame, that detracts from the image too.

• Anything that draws the eye away from the subject should be avoided.

4) Eyes:

• In a close-up shot, the eyes are the single most important feature.

• If the subject's eyes are in focus, the rest is forgivable. If the eyes are not in focus, it spoils the whole shot.

• Note that this rule doesn't apply in glamour shots with feather boas, but it does apply to hockey, particularly in "portrait" type shots.

More about eyes... and this applies in all shots.

• Eyes that are in focus in the camera, but not in fous on the player - i.e. the player is staring off into space - are less appealing than eyes that are looking at something - the follow-through of the shot; the photographer, etc.

• Eyes that are closed, scrunched shut, etc. are generally not desirable unless that is the subject of the photo. (Examples will follow).

5) Facial Expression:

• Hockey players sometimes have the goofiest looks on their faces! And they generally have a good sense of humor about it, too, for the autograph later.

If this FanPost is written by someone other than one of the blog's editors, the opinions expressed in it do not necessarily reflect those of this blog or SB Nation.

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